Mr President, arrest this descent into police state depravity

It gives me no satisfaction to have publicly warned, along with others, that our country needed to be on guard against the sinister growth of security powers and the culture of police brutality. In fact, I raised this with my Communist Party comrades soon after I resigned from government in September 2008.

My conscience was affronted by common police brutality against black people, as I grew up in the 1940s and '50s. I was motivated by the sickening force of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 to join the ANC-led liberation movement. I did not anticipate that along with so many ordinary South Africans I would witness in a democratic South Africa abominations such as the police killing of Ficksburg activist Andries Tatane, the Marikana massacre of striking mineworkers, the shooting of protesting farm labourers in the Cape wine lands, and the latest bloodcurdling imagery of Mozambican national and taxi driver Mido Macia being dragged to his death behind a police van.

I had become concerned long before the Macia incident of reports of beatings and torture in police cells. There had also been almost 800 reported deaths in police custody in 2010-2011, constant attacks on protest demonstrations, "shoot to kill" exhortations of police ministers, numerous reports involving police corruption, the use of conspiracy theories to deal with opponents of government and the move to strengthen the powers of the government security cluster by dubious means. Add to this the bizarre occasion where six young would-be recruits perished in a Pietermaritzburg recruitment drive recently and one has a picture of a force bordering on chaos.

All of this in a country where the Constitution and Bill of Rights is dedicated to protecting the safety of our people. The one saving grace has been the number of journalists who have projected these stories and, in the grizzly death of the taxi driver, a member of the public who captured the ghastly deed on amateur video.

One imagines that such information would not be available under the newly cast Protection of Information Bill. In 1994 we established a police service not a police force. All that was reversed in 2009 with a repugnant military ranking system. It is government that carries responsibility for this banana-state militarisation.


It behoves our government, ruling party, opposition, the public and entire civil society to ensure that the menacing culture of police brutality – so reminiscent of the apartheid and colonial era – be transformed into an ethos compatible with the compassionate values we fought and sacrificed for.

What our president needs do to arrest this descent into police state depravity is dismiss his minister and commissioner of police in order to send a clear signal that a reformed system of policing is imperative. He should also revert to the earlier reforms of the police service with strong civil oversight and transparency, institute a far reaching civic education programme of the type instituted within the department of defence in the 1990s, ensure the thorough retraining of officers and personnel in terms of responsible conduct and service,  and provide assertive leadership to weed-out corruption and punish rotten apples. 

These are just some much needed measures to turn the tide and create a police service that serves our people and country.

Ronnie Kasrils was intelligence minister from 2004 to 2008.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Ronnie Kasrils
Guest Author
Comment Author
Guest Author

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Poachers in prisons tell their stories

Interviews with offenders provide insight into the structure of illegal wildlife trade networks

Covid-overflow hospital in ruins as SIU investigates

A high-level probe has begun into hundreds of millions of rand spent by the Gauteng health department to refurbish a hospital that is now seven months behind schedule – and lying empty

More top stories

The politics of the Zuma-Zondo showdown

Any move made by the Zondo commission head or by former president Jacob Zuma must be calculated, because one mistake from either side could lead to a political fallout

Pay-TV inquiry probes the Multichoice monopoly

Africa’s largest subscription television operator says it is under threat amid the emerging popularity of global platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime

​No apology or comfort as another Marikana mother dies without...

Nomawethu Ma’Bhengu Sompeta, whose funeral will be held this weekend, was unequivocal in calling out the government for its response to the Marikana massacre

Children may benefit when parents share their digital gaming...

Digital games can provide forums for diverse groups of people to come together, which is especially important while our physical activities are restricted
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…